Tag Archives: Larry Bird

THE DRAMATIC SHIFT IN THE PERCEPTION OF MICHAEL JORDAN

Like every part of his craft, Jordan took pride in his passing skills.

Jay C. Brandriet

5/10/18

It’s been 20 seasons since Michael Jordan added his sixth ring and retired as a member of the Chicago Bulls.  From that time to today, there has been a dramatic shift in how people perceive MJ.

 

 

Jordan is the greatest player I’ve ever seen, in any sport. The first 10 years after hitting that shot at Utah, he was actually overrated. Really!

Fans said he was WAY better than Magic and Bird. I had to explain it was closer than that.

They said Pippen was a joke. The focus was on how he was NOT a top 50 player. They talked about how in his first few years he was essentially a nobody. I was told how Michael had to push him physically and challenge him mentally. It was said Michael created Pippen. I had to tell them regardless of that, Scottie was anywhere from the 4th to 13th best player in the world on six championship teams.

People said Rodman was a detriment. They said he was a distraction, Apparently all he could do was rebound, and was not worthy of the Hall of Fame. I would talk about the energy he created to change crowds and games nightly.

Hakeem and his Rockets still don’t get enough credit for their back to back titles in the mid 1990’s, because Mike was playing baseball.

Even from people who hated MJ, his reputation became inflated. It’s like he never missed a shot, never lost a game, and never failed in the clutch.  The idea was “Air Jordan” couldn’t possibly have a flaw or have done anything wrong on the basketball floor. As a Washington Wizard, he was still a legit All-Star (top 24 to 30 player). He was viewed as a mythical figure, even as he now had cracks. I had to bring up  the mistakes, and the failures. Jordan was not perfect, he’s just the closest thing to a perfect player I have seen.

Now its two decades later and a shift has occurred. Time has passed and new greats have emerged. Many lovers of the game did not see MJ at his apex (1990-93). Jordan has actually become, underrated. I never thought I’d see it. I never thought I’d say it.

Kobe was a sobering figure in some ways. Not only did he play like Michael, he came awfully close to being as good. His career reminded us, legends keep coming and number 23 was probably a human being. LeBron James is the real deal. He is worth the noise he creates in sports. He also has legions of fans (who never saw prime Mike) making up lies and trying to alter the narrative on Jordan.

All of the sudden in 2018,  being undefeated and never being pushed to seven games in the Finals is not that big of a deal.

There is now this hilarious take that “Jordan never beat great teams in the Finals.”

Some TV personalities say with a straight face that Michael had help on his early Chicago teams, and underachieved.

The once ultra criticized  Scottie Pippen is now said to be among the VERY BEST to ever play, and MJ could never do anything without him.

There is this idea brewing that Michael was mostly a scorer, and may have lacked a complete game.

I’ve heard his numbers somehow have flaws compared to others.

I saw Jordan. He was the most complete, fundamentally sound player I have watched (he hit his free throws too). He was the most fierce, the most athletic, and creative. His ability to close games and choke teams out was THE KEY to his biggest victories.

No Michael could not average 50 points if he wanted, and he could not win games simply by using the force. If you are invested in LeBron’s climb up the ladder, put your focus on him. If you are trying to diminish who Jordan was, you are playing the fool.

 

 

 

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I ADMIT IT…LEBRON JAMES IS THE SECOND BEST PLAYER OF ALL TIME

Jay C. Brandriet

3/25/18

Nobody has ever been this good at this stage of their career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just finished watching LeBron play a string of 20 straight games. It’s late in his fifteenth NBA season, and something hit me like a ton of bricks today. I think it’s time to say “King James” is the second best basketball player of all time. I could not be more objective on this subject. I’m not a “LeBron guy.” My buddy Russ used James as a weapon in arguments against my favorite players. I was built to hope LBJ did not succeed. Modern commentators (Nick Wright) that lie about Jordan, to build up James also annoy me to no end. If you saw Michael Jordan play in real-time at his apex, it would likely be obvious to you HE is the “GOAT.”

I’m a Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant fan. I have no horse in this race. I do not cheer for LeBron. If anything, I’d be the guy pointing out James said he would hit 80 percent of his foul shots for the first time this year, and that he’s currently at 72.6.

King was already in the argument as the second best ball player to live….then this season happened. He’s 53,000 total minutes into his career, and actually getting better. It’s not like he’s still an all-star or a superstar. LBJ is the best player in the world and it’s not close (and I AM a KD guy)! He’s adding onto his brilliance every single night. His turnaround jump shots have conviction, and they often resemble MJ and Hakeem. He feels himself from the three-point line. He’s thriving in odd team circumstances. James footwork is better, and his fakes have fakes. His post game is growing. I see more and more of his left hand. Even his missed shots are popping me out of my seat. If he’s lost foot speed or elevation, it’s a non issue. Coach Gordon Chiesa says he has “jack hammer power.”  That muscle and finesse are a wonderful marriage. LeBron reminds me of Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, and Clyde Drexler. He is better than an amazing basketball player at this point, he’s a walking parade of greatness.

His level most times this season felt similar to Michael Jordan late in his Bulls career (1997-98 window). He’s abusing teams in the clutch, and doing it in a variety of ways. He will sometimes point to his pretend watch as if to say, “It’s time for me to close things down.”  King is taking what he wants and his creativity and court vision are  outrageous. He’s aware of his legacy and enjoying the ride. He’s smiling and laughing a lot. LeBron should be getting heavy legs, instead he’s somehow been reborn.

Let’s mention the guys we are all thinking about.

Jabbar remains more accomplished than James, but I would now put Kareem third all time.

I know you are the games greatest winner Mr. Bill Russell.

Wilt was so legit, I’d guess he would average 32/15/5 in today’s game.

Earvin had the perfect nickname in “Magic.” I’d trust him to make a goofy trick shot in pressure, more than I’d trust James to knock down a free throw.

Larry Bird. Larry freaking Bird!

It’s not that Kobe Bryant bailed LeBron and his teammates out in crunch time in the Gold Medal Game….it’s that James fans were texting me “give it to Kobe” when the game was on the line. Bryant was the “Killer” on the “Redeem Team.”

Shaq was that guy for a handful of years.

Hakeem was this level for a minute. Oscar? West? No.

Tim Duncan won a “few games.” He’s not LeBron.

 

I’ve seen enough. LeBron is second! His sustained excellence with what’s to come is a tough package to beat. While there are aspects of other players gifts I prefer more, James will have a resume that will look like it’s own mountain. I can no longer deny just HOW great the king is. I’m factoring in that I expect him to dominate for another half decade and win one to three more titles.

I envision James carrying the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals this summer. Once there, against a better TEAM I give him a coin flips chance to win it all. I think he can actually do it. He scares me that much. James is a little over celebrated for getting to Finals series and losing (he should get a complete pass for 2007). LeBron wants to be the best ever. We need to be stricter at holding him to “AirJordan” standards.

It’s hard for me to put him over Kobe and Magic. It is just a Sunday in late March when the Cavs won a road game in New Jersey. I don’t want to be right, I want to get it right. I also don’t want to be late. This LeBron storm is coming.  If you can’t beat em, join em. James performance will back up my words, so it’s an easy claim to make.

Now, what will it take to catch that “ghost” Michael Jordan? Let’s talk about that after this season comes to an end.

Jay C. Brandriet

 

 

THE 25 BEST PLAYERS IN UTAH JAZZ HISTORY

Jay C. Brandriet

2/22/18

I’m grateful to have grown up in the same city as the Utah Jazz. While they have yet to win a world championship, the story of the NBA can not be told without them. Larry H. Miller, Jerry Sloan and others have created a culture that has been emulated by many.  Here is my version of the franchises 25 best players. I’m only factoring in each guys time playing for the Jazz (including New Orleans).

 

#25- MATT HARPRING (474 games) Harpring was a hard-nosed player who brought stability with 15 footers off of a curl play. Matt enjoyed irritating Carmelo Anthony. 

#24- BRYON RUSSELL (628 games) Bryon was the 45th overall pick in 1993. His 32 minutes a game in a ton of post season contests is why he beat out Donyell Marshall and John Drew for this spot on the list.

#23- RICH KELLEY (497 games) Kelley’s most productive year for the Jazz came with him scoring 15.7 points. He was also second in the NBA in rebounds (12.8) and eighth in blocked shots (2.1).

#22- GAIL GOODRICH ( 182 games) After an excellent career, Gail played his last three seasons in New Orleans. He could still fill it up. His best ever field goal shooting (49.5 percent) came with the Jazz in 1977-78.

#21- TRUCK ROBINSON (125 games) Len “Truck” Robinson made his time with the Jazz count. He averaged 23 points and 15 rebounds in his two seasons in New Orleans. The 6’7″ Robinson was invited to the All Star game in 1978.

#20- DERRICK FAVORS (478 games) Favors is a stout presence protecting the paint. He has also has shown value at center. Derrick has very good hands and continues to seem like an x factor in the team’s success.

#19- AL JEFFERSON (221 games) Al Jefferson will not go down as the biggest of names in basketball circles. With that said, Al could score and rebound in any city. In three campaigns with Utah, he dropped 18.5 points and pulled down 9.5 boards a night.  

During the 2018 All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, the league was buzzing about Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

#18- DONOVAN MITCHELL (55 games) Mitchell has arrived! Mature. Playmaker. Clutch player. His rookie awards won’t mean much long-term. This guy will end up in the Hall of Fame.

#17- MEHMET OKUR (474 games) Memo once put on a two month run of clutch shooting that would have made Larry Bird blush a little.

#16- JEFF MALONE (279 games) Malone had a remarkable ability to score, falling backwards. In his four years in Utah, Jeff shot 88.1 percent from the free throw line.

#15- PAUL MILLSAP (540 games) Paul was another drafting gem the Jazz can be proud of (47th overall in 2006). He’s the classic lunch pail player who has turned into a low-level NBA star.

#14- THURL BAILEY (708 games) Thurl was consistent. Old reliable. He was one of the best sixth men of his generation. Over the 1988 and 89 seasons he scored 19.5 points a night. Bailey made himself available in the community and fans in Salt Lake City love the man.

#13- RUDY GOBERT (301 games) The impact he makes on an NBA game is quietly all time great. The skill and the wingspan are outrageous. Rudy’s intense desire to compete is why the franchise trusts him.

Jeff helped the Jazz win 15 straight road games. He played in 100 playoff games and two slug fest Finals with the Chicago Bulls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#12- GORDON HAYWARD (516  games) In his seventh season in Utah, Hayward grew into one of the 25 best players in the world.

#11- RICKEY GREEN (606 games) I can still hear Hot Rod Hundley yelling, “the fastest of them all.” Green had three straight steals seasons of 2.3, 2.8, and 2.7 per game.

#10- CARLOS BOOZER (354 games) In May 2007, Carlos scored 35 points, and grabbed 14 rebounds in a game 7 at Houston. He also had memorable big game battles with Gasol and Odom where he held his own. I would often watch Boozer from 20 feet away. His high arcing baseline jumper was automatic.

#9- ANDREI KIRILENKO (681 games) “AK-47” was an exotic talent. He was like an elastic band being shot out of a cannon. Kirilenko’s  help defense and shot blocking made him a league wide stand out. Some of his all around talents, left him in statistical categories only he and Hakeem Olajuwon share.

#8- DARRELL GRIFFITH (765 games) The 1981 NBA Rookie of the Year, Griffith was an offensive star for five seasons before an injury. Darrell and his chain were 1980’s cool. His athletic play and rainbow jumpers are a popular memory in Jazz lore.

#7- MARK EATON (875 games) He was never appreciated by Jazz fans while he was active. Mark was the Defensive Player of the Year twice, and made five All-Defensive teams. He led the NBA in blocks four times. Eaton’s 5.6 rejections per game in 1984-85 is the best shot blocking season in NBA history.

#6- JEFF HORNACEK (477 games) His handles made Stockton’s life easier. Jeff’s sweet passing was over shadowed by his ability to shoot. Hornacek had the gift of ridiculous, crafty shot making.

#5- DERON WILLIAMS (439 games)  For a small window of time, Williams was the best point guard in the NBA. I always trusted his outside shot. Deron’s level in Utah, landed him on the Olympic “Redeem Team” in 2008.

#4- PETE MARAVICH (330 games) Arguably the most important model of showmanship the game has ever seen. “Pistol Pete” added an artful texture to basketball’s history. It’s awesome he played for the Jazz.

#3- ADRIAN DANTLEY (461 games)  AD would spin the ball in his hands, rock you to sleep, and score buckets for a living. He averaged 29.6 points on 56.2 percent shooting from the floor in his Jazz career. Dantley carried the Jazz organization before they were a true contender.

#2- JOHN STOCKTON (1,504 games) I loved to watch John think the game. His decision-making was so good, it seemed tangible. Most would be surprised John scored just under 20,000 points and hit 51.5 percent of his field goals. Stockton crushed bigger people’s bodies fighting through screens for two decades.

 

The two most durable players of all time. It’s so difficult to separate who is better. I took Karl’s power over John’s clutch play

#1- KARL MALONE (1,434 games) “The Mailman” led the Western conference in scoring six times. Malone may be the best player ever, without a ring. Red Auerbach said of Karl, “He’s a 6’9″, 260 pound monster, who runs the break like a deer.”

 

 

Jay C. Brandriet

 

 

A MESSAGE YOUNG NBA FANS NEED TO HEAR ABOUT MICHAEL JORDAN

Jay C. Brandriet

12/31/17

To the younger generation of NBA fans,

“Air Jordan” is the greatest playoff performer to live. He NEVER lost a series when Chicago had home court advantage.

I get it. You are probably in your mid twenties and have heard about Jordan your entire life. You respect the idea of him, but also maybe feel like he’s been pushed on you as the greatest by your Father, and ESPN. It’s a new day, and different narratives are being created about what Jordan was or was not. Many of these voices were too young to have seen Mike play in real-time. I’m here to help by telling you the truth. Jordan was even better than the hype. MJ is not a romantic idea people over 42 can’t get over because they are sentimental. He really happened, and it wasn’t that long ago. He’s not the name in the sport because of a cool logo and a wildly popular shoe. Michael’s that big, because the level he attained was that stunning. Jordan played basketball as well as anyone has ever done anything. He mastered his craft. He was Michael Jackson on stage, good.

These 40 points will help deliver my message.

 

#40- IN ELEVEN COMPLETE SEASONS WITH THE BULLS, JORDAN LED THE NBA IN TOTAL POINTS ELEVEN TIMES.

#39- OVER THE LAST 53 YEARS, ONE MAN HAS SCORED 3,000 POINTS IN A SEASON. MIKE!

#38- 40 POINT GAMES? THE GREAT SHAQUILLE O’NEAL HAD 49 OF THEM IN HIS CAREER. MJ HAD 37 OF THEM…..IN 1987.

#37- “I’M NOT SURE PEOPLE REALIZE HOW GOOD THIS GUY WAS. HE WAS THE BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER, THE BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER, THE BEST COMPETITOR. IF THERE IS EVER GOING TO BE SOMEONE GREATER, WE WILL ALL BE  SCRATCHING OUR HEADS.”  (Jerry West)

#36- MOST 30 POINT PLAYOFF GAMES (109), MOST 40 POINT PLAYOFF GAMES (38) AND MOST 50 POINT PLAYOFF GAMES(8).

#35- MANY PLAYERS FROM THE JORDAN ERA HAVE SAID IT WAS COMMON KNOWLEDGE THROUGH OUT THE NBA, TO NOT RILE MICHAEL UP. THE UNWRITTEN RULE WAS TO NOT TALK TO HIM. SOME WENT AS FAR AS AVOIDING LOOKING HIM IN THE EYES.

#34- MJ IS ONE OF THE ELITE SHOT BLOCKING GUARDS OF ALL TIME. AT 6’6″, JORDAN HAD 261 BLOCKS FROM 1986 to 1988 ALONE.

#33- HE WAS DURABLE. JORDAN NEVER MISSED A PLAYOFF GAME (179). HE SCORED 20 POINTS PLUS IN 97 PERCENT OF THOSE CONTESTS.

#32- OVER A FOUR GAME STRETCH OF THE 1993 FINALS…MICHAEL SCORED….42….44….55….AND 41 POINTS. HATERS WILL SAY HE WAS SHOOTING MORE THAN OTHERS….NO. THE RIGHT GUY WAS SHOOTING.

#31- SUGGESTION? “YOU TUBE” HIS PASSING SKILLS. HE WAS 8TH IN THE NBA IN ASSISTS IN 1989.

#30- JORDAN WAS THE BEST MID RANGE JUMP SHOOTER I’VE EVER SEEN.

#29- WITH HIS FIRST CRACK AT A FINALS IN 1991, MICHAEL PUT ON A PASSING CLINIC AND AVERAGED 11.4 DIMES IN THE SERIES. IN GAME 2…HE MADE 13 SHOTS IN A ROW.

#28- OVER HIS FIRST SEVEN YEARS, HIS LOWEST FREE THROW PERCENATGE WAS 84.0%

#27- HE AVERAGED 8 REBOUNDS A NIGHT IN 1989. NOT BAD FOR THE BEST IN GAME DUNKER OF ALL TIME (If you prefer Vince, it’s all good).

#26- JORDAN HAD HUGE HANDS. THE ADVANTAGE WAS CATCHING BETTER, PASSING BETTER, AND BEING A PUMP FAKING PUPPETEER. HE COULD TAKE THE BALL DIRECTLY FROM THE DRIBBLE TO ATTACKING THE RIM.

“Michael is the only player in our league, with no weakness.” Danny Ainge-1990

#25- NO OTHER PLAYER HAS  AVERAGED OVER 30 POINTS IN THE PLAYOFFS FOR A CAREER. MJ AVERAGED 33.4

#24- JORDAN TOOK THE BALL AWAY CONSTANTLY. HE LED THE LEAGUE IN STEALS THREE TIMES, CAME IN SECOND TWICE, THIRD TWICE, AND FOURTH TWICE.

#23- HIS FOOT SPEED, QUICKNESS, AND HANG TIME WERE INSANE.

#22- IN THE SPRING OF 1989, MICHAEL PLAYED POINT GUARD AND HAD 10 TRIPLE DOUBLES IN AN 11 GAME SPAN. ESSENTIALLY HE HAD 36 PERCENT OF HIS CAREER TRIPLE DOUBLE TOTAL IN THREE WEEKS, BECAUSE HIS COACH ASKED HIM TO.

#21- HIS PLAYER EFFICIENCY RATING IS THE BEST EVER IN THE REGULAR SEASON, PLAYOFFS, AND FINALS.

#20- “WATCHING HIM AND PLAYING AGAINST HIM WERE MUCH DIFFERENT. I LEARNED A LOT THIS GAME….HOW TECHNICALLY SOUND HE WAS. HIS FUNDAMENTALS AND TECHNIQUE WERE FLAWLESS.” (Kobe Bryant after his first matchup with MJ).

#19- HE WAS THE REAL KING OF NEW YORK. THE BULLS HAD A HEATED RIVALRY WITH THE KNICKS. IT WAS SO PERSONAL AND PHYSICAL. MICHAEL WON ALL FIVE SERIES HE PLAYED AGAINST THEM. JORDAN WAS A DREAM KILLER.

#18- MIKE DIDN’T HAVE THREE POINT PROBLEMS. THE SHOT WAS NOT NEAR AS CALLED FOR IN HIS ERA. HE WON REGULAR SEASON, PLAYOFF, AND FINALS GAMES WITH THREES. HE HIT SIX TRIPLES IN A FINALS HALF, WITHOUT A MISS. TIMING MATTERS.

#17- IN 1996, ON A 87-13 TEAM (OVERALL), MICHAEL WAS 11TH IN THE NBA IN THREE POINT SHOOTING PERCENTAGE(42.7%). HE WAS EVEN GOOD AT THE THINGS PEOPLE SAY HE COULDN’T DO.

#16- NOBODY HAD BETTER STYLE AND CREATIVITY THAN JORDAN. IT’S NOT JUST THAT HE WOULD SCORE 10 QUICK POINTS, IT’S THAT EIGHT OF THEM WERE ELECTRIC SHOWTIME.

#15- MJ SCORED 51 AND 45 IN BACK TO BACK GAMES….AS A WASHINGTON WIZARD.

#14- “MICHAEL WAS SO DOMINANT, PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY, I ALWAYS GOT THE SENSE EVERYONE WAS AFRAID OF HIM. THE OPPONENTS, THE REFEREES, HIS TEAMMATES. HE WAS JUST SO DOMINANT WITH HIS PRESENCE.” (Steve Kerr)

#13- THE MIAMI HEAT RETIRED JORDAN’S NUMBER. HE DID NOT PLAY FOR THE HEAT. HE WAS JUST THAT BAD ASS.

#12- IN EACH OF HIS COMPLETE SEASONS BETWEEN 1987 AND 1997 MICHAEL LED THE NBA IN WIN SHARES. HE WAS ALSO SECOND TWICE. HE LOOKS THE SAME UNDER COOL MODERN STATS AS WELL.

#11- A BIG TIME NBA SCORER MAY SCORE OVER 50 POINTS, THREE OR FOUR TIMES IN A CAREER. “AIR JORDAN”  DROPPED 50 PLUS…39 TIMES. HE SCORED OVER 60, FIVE TIMES.

In only his third game as a pro, Michael scored 37 points including 22 in the 4th quarter.

#10- VERY FEW WOULD ADMIT IT THEN, BUT JORDAN WAS BETTER THAN MAGIC AND BIRD EVEN BEFORE HE WON BIG. THAT SAID….IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE HOW GOOD MAGIC AND BIRD WERE.

#9- EVERY GAME THAT JORDAN PLAYED, HE WAS EXPECTED TO LIVE UP TO HIS OWN MASSIVE STANDARDS. I ADMIRE HOW OFTEN HE ROSE TO THE OCCASION. HIGH STAKES EXPOSED HIS GREATNESS.

#8- HE HAD POWER, SUPREME FOOTWORK, AND A DYNAMITE POST GAME.

#7- MJ DID THE DIRTY WORK TOO. HE DID ALL THE SMALL THINGS THAT ANY GUY ON THE END OF THE BENCH WOULD DO. WHEN HIS SHOT WAS NOT FALLING, HE WAS GOOD AT SIMPLIFYING THINGS.

#6- IN THE FINALS HE WAS A 33.6 POINT, 6 REBOUND, 6 ASSIST GUY. HE DOMINATED ON DEFENSE AND MADE BIG PLAY AFTER BIG PLAY….THAT’S ALL.

#5- NOBODY HAD ENERGY LIKE JORDAN. HE WAS THE MOST RELENTLESS, AGGRESSIVE PLAYER IN THE WORLD. THE LATER THE GAME GOT, THE MORE JUICE HE HAD.

#4- MJ SEEMED TO OFTEN TAKE WHAT HE WANTED WHEN HE WANTED. HE PLAYED WITH FURY AND LASER FOCUS. HIS WILL AND SKILL LEFT HIM THE BEST I’VE EVER SEEN. SEVEN OR EIGHT GUYS HAVE BEEN CLOSE TO AS GOOD….JORDAN WAS THE CLOSEST TO BEING A “TEN”.

#3- COMPARE HIM TO TODAY’S GREATEST WHERE IT MATTERS MOST. LEBRON JAMES…A TOP 5 PLAYER EVER….WHO IS STILL ROLLING….HAS PLAYED 3,300 MORE MINUTES THAN JORDAN….AND HAS THREE LESS RINGS AND FINALS MVP’S. IN A LONGER CAREER, CHANGING TEAMS TWICE IN HIS PRIME, SOMEONE AS ELITE AS JAMES, HAS HALF OF MIKE’S BEST JEWELRY.

#2- PEOPLE UNDER DOING 6-0 IN THE FINALS IS SICKENING. HE PLAYED IN THE 1990’S YOU JOKERS. LET’S JUST SAY THOSE BASKETBALL TEAMS AND TALENT HOLD THEIR OWN COMPARED TO ANY DECADE. HE TOOK DOWN THE 90’S BEST. HE WON 69 PERCENT  OF HIS FINALS GAMES. HIS TEAMS WERE GREAT. DON’T GET IT TWISTED…HIS BRILLIANCE AND SYMPHONY OF CLUTCH PLAY….IS WHY….HIS TEAMS WON 25 OF THE LAST 26 PLAYOFF SERIES HE WAS A PART OF.

#1- MJ IN THE LOCKER ROOM….SITTING WITH SCOTTIE PIPPEN AFTER THE 1998 FINALS IN SALT LAKE CITY….”SIX….SIX…..SIX OF THEM…(raising his voice)…SIX OF THEM! YOU ALL CAN SAY WHATEVER YOU WANT…THEY CAN’T WIN UNTIL WE QUIT.”

Jay C. Brandriet

12/31/17

THE MOST UNDERRATED BASKETBALL TEAM OF ALL TIME-DREAM TEAM 3

Jay C. Brandriet

8/29/16

The original “Dream Team” remains the greatest, most impactful group in basketball history. They are so iconic, they have cast a shadow over a team that could have hung with them on the floor. The 1996 version of Team USA was on the level of the 1992 squad. They are not given much credit for their sensational roster. Even “The Redeem Team” in 2008 gets more love because of their storyline. “Dream Team 3” is the most underrated basketball team of all time.

 

1992 VERSE 1996 THOUGHTS

I’ts close. I’d guess the 1992 squad would be a two or three point favorite each time. The reason would be Michael Jordan and Earvin Johnson, who was still Magic enough. It should be noted Larry Bird had a broken NBA body and was doing  Americans a favor by suiting up. Christian Laettner (a good pro) as a rookie would be the worst player on either squad.

 

1996 UNITED STATES MEN’S OLYMPIC BASKETBALL TEAM

 

CHARLES BARKLEY (Age 33)

KARL MALONE (Age 33)

JOHN STOCKTON (Age 34)

DAVID ROBINSON (Age 30)

SCOTTIE PIPPEN (Age 30)

SHAQUILLE O’NEAL (Age 24)

HAKEEM OLAJUWON (Age 33)

PENNY HARDAWAY (Age 24)

GRANT HILL (Age 23)

GARY PAYTON (Age 28)

REGGIE MILLER (Age 30)

MITCH RICHMOND (Age 31)

 

COACHES: Lenny Wilkens, Jerry Sloan, Bobby Cremins, Clem Haskins

 

MY POINT?   

                                                                                                                                        “Dream Team 3” had five players from the 92 group. Then add Shaq at his peak of running fast and jumping high. Next is merely Olajuwon who had just been the best player in the world for two years. Penny and Grant Hill were superstars, right in the middle of putting their versatile stamps on the NBA. Gary Payton was at the top of his game. Reggie Miller had already proven he was a clutch legend. Oh my goodness Mitch Richmond could ball. They won by 32 points a game on the way to gold. This team got lost between the “Dream Team” breaking ground and the “Redeem Team” having to overcome struggle. For how good the 96 team was, it’s like they hardly exist in fans memories.

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Looking at this photo says it all.

THE 60 BEST PLAYERS I’VE SEEN IN THE NBA (2015)

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I’M ONLY RANKING THE PLAYERS I HAVE SEEN IN MY TIME OF OBSESSIVELY WATCHING NBA BASKETBALL (1987-2015). The years noted next to the players are the span of time they played, not necessarily the exact seasons. Guys that are active are still climbing an ever-changing list like this one. There are a handful of players I saw play, but count them for this list. I did not see them enough or at their best.

 

PLAYERS I WATCHED THAT I DID NOT COUNT FOR THIS LIST: Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Moses Malone, Adrian Dantley, Bernard King, Mark Aguirre, Alex English, Dennis Johnson, Robert Parish, Rolando Blackman, Fat Lever , Ricky Pierce, Xaiver Mcdaniel, Tom Chambers & Larry Nance.

HONORABLE MENTION: Gilbert Arenas, Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Tim Hardaway, and Derrick Coleman.

THE 60 BEST PLAYERS I’VE SEEN AS OF JULY, 2015: 

#60- ANTHONY DAVIS (Active) I’m giving Davis an early ticket on this list. Like Shaquille O’Neal being voted a “top 50 player” too early, sometimes you can give credit for upside. Most NBA insiders think Davis is THE next guy. It’s obvious he’s going to be in the conversation.

#59- JAMES HARDEN (Active) For all that he has yet to do, it’s clear Harden’s impact level is here to stay. His step back jumper allows him to get shots off with little space. James is a master at drawing contact. I did not think he would ever end up second on an NBA MVP ballot.

#58- KEVIN JOHNSON (1987-2000) Many think of the images of the 6-foot-1 Johnson hammering it on Hakeem Olajuwon and Mark Eaton. The mayor could ball! In 105 playoff games KJ averaged 19.3 points and 8.9 assists per game.

Kobe Bryant is a huge fan of Westbrook who competes so fiercely each play.
Kobe Bryant is a huge fan of Westbrook because he competes so fiercely each play.

#57- DERRICK ROSE (Active) Derrick is the youngest player to ever be named NBA MVP (22). It may be difficult for Rose to get back to that level again. I’ve seen enough to know he’s one of the most explosive, determined guards to play the game.

#56- LARRY JOHNSON (1991-2001) If healthy, Larry Johnson would have been a Hall of Fame player. He had elegance in his power game. Johnson hit one of the biggest shots and free throws in New York Knicks history.

#55- RUSSELL WESTBROOK (Active) Russell charging at a defense makes me think of back peddling in a panic. Former player Antoine Carr described his reason for liking Westbrook, “He seems to play angry every night man.”

#54- CHRIS BOSH (Active) After his last season in Toronto, I thought Chris peaked as the 12th best player in the NBA. His contribution was a huge reason the Heat went to four straight Finals and brought home two rings. Bosh plays outstanding pick and roll defense.

#53- MANU GINOBILI (Active) The 57th overall pick of the 1999 draft has become an unforgettable gem. Manu is the perfect combination of showtime and grit.

#52- CHAUNCEY BILLUPS (1997-2014) Basketball people love Billups. He went from a hard-working journeyman to a five time NBA All-Star and a Finals MVP. With a name like “Mr. Big Shot” we can assume this guy did alright.

#51- BUCK WILLIAMS (1981-1998) Before I saw him play Buck had five 1000 plus rebound seasons. I remember when he competed in 58 playoff games with the Blazers over a few year stretch. He could bang with someone like Karl Malone and make it a fair fight in the toughness category.

#50- DIKEMBE MUTOMBO (1991-2009) Mutombo made his name with smothering defense and a cool finger waggle. He was an eight time All-Star and four-time Defensive Player of the Year.

#49- AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE (Active) Amar’e was an exotic talent. He was a better Blake Griffin. Stoudemire was at his best during the Western Conference Finals versus San Antonio in his second season. He dropped 37 a game in dominating fashion. I thought then he was the third best player on the planet.

Carmelo receives a lot of criticism. At the very least he is a scoring legend.
Carmelo receives a lot of criticism. At the very least he is a scoring legend.

#48- SHAWN KEMP (1989-2003) Kemp was the first player I ever thought of as a “man child”. Even raw and young, he would explode off of the television. Shawn helped the 1996 Seattle Supersonics to 64 wins and the NBA Finals. As an older player in Cleveland he started burying the outside shot from the elbow.

#47- RASHEED WALLACE (1995-2013) Rasheed had great extension on his shot and range that stretched deep. Wallace was unstoppable when he was aggressive. He is the most gifted, reluctant player of his time (Odom is number two).

#46- TONY PARKER (Active) The longer Tony keeps his dribble alive, he seems to get more dangerous. His 17 foot jumper and his floater are staples that have helped his teams win four World Championships.

#45- CARMELO ANTHONY (Active) The media loves to talk about the holes in Carmelo’s game. I gained my respect for Melo watching his Olympic play in 2008. When he’s on your side it’s easy to see his scoring prowess. His mid range game is butter, and he can be trusted in crunch time.

#44- VINCE CARTER (Active) Vince was an aesthetically pleasing player to watch. His aerial game left you waiting for his next new move. Carter became a weapon from the three-point line and has a 50 point playoff game to his credit. His transition to excellent role player in his later years is a the bow on his Hall of Fame caliber career.

#43- JOE DUMARS (1985-1999) Rolling with a group of “bad boys”, Joe was the face of class and integrity. He shot it well, passed with precision, and was cool late in games. Dumars deserves the label of “combo guard.” Michael Jordan admired the challenge Joe presented him.

#42- PAU GASOL (Active) His mix of length and skill are transcendent. Gasol was the lead guy in Memphis on a 50 win team. He was the difference maker for Kobe’s Lakers teams that played in three straight Finals series. As a Chicago Bull in the 2015 campaign, he had the most Double doubles in the NBA with 54.

#41-DWIGHT HOWARD (Active) Dwight has become so overrated, hes underrated. His body and athleticism have aided him in being a historic defender. Howard has been the league leader in blocks five times. For all of those that dump on him the last few years, don’t forget Dwight is a 19.5 point, 14.1 rebound, and 2.6 block guy in 84 playoff games.

#40- MITCH RICHMOND (1988-2002) Richmond’s great play was a little under the radar in Golden State and Sacramento. Mitch finished strong at the cup. He scored 21 points per game or more in 10 straight seasons and hit 85 percent of his career free throws.

T-Mac once scored 13 points in the final 35 seconds to beat the Spurs.
T-Mac once scored 13 points in the final 35 seconds to beat the Spurs.

#39- CHRIS MULLIN (1985-2001) Chris watched the 1988 All-Star game from rehab. A year later he was playing in the 1989 All-Star game in Houston. He went from 30 pounds over weight to being part of “Run TMC” and leading the league in minutes twice. Mullin had super vision.

#38- DENNIS RODMAN (1986-2000) Rodman made hustle sexy. His energy seemed tangible and it drove his teams and his home crowds. Dennis led the league in rebounding over seven consecutive years, pulling down an eye-popping 16.7 a night.

#37- RAY ALLEN (1996-2014) When Ray Allen was in town I would always show up early to watch his pre game shooting routine. It was more than spectacular. It was a front row seat to the reminder that being great does not happen on accident.

#36- CHRIS PAUL (Active) He wears how bad he wants to beat you on his sleeve. Chris has led the league in steals per game five times in his 10 seasons. Although CP3 has not advanced to a Conference Final, the shot he hit to beat the Spurs in game seven (2015) should validate him the same.

#35- PENNY HARDAWAY (1993-2008) Penny had it all in his game. He was a big guard who had hops, could post, and was a suburb show passer. On a desperate Orlando team in 1997, Hardaway scored 42 and 41 points in back to back playoff wins.

#34- REGGIE MILLER (1987-2005) His constant motion was as much his staple as his long distance shooting. He was so difficult to chase it consumed teams. Miller would embrace pressure. He was always willing to dare the moment, which made for great theater in the clutch.

#33- TRACY MCGRADY (1997-2012) In his Orlando days, Tracy was an athletic phenom. He was like “Kobe East.” As a Rocket he remained a scoring expert, while his ability to pass the ball cross court was on full display. McGrady was a two-time scoring champion.

#32- ALONZO MOURNING (1992-2008) After a December 2007 game in Salt Lake City, I asked Mourning “what is the number one thing you have learned about yourself over the last few years?” He took his time cutting his last toe nail, looked up and said, “that I’m a tough son of a bitch.”

#31- GRANT HILL (1994-2013) Grant burst onto the scene as the new age point forward. He was a smooth and dynamic ball player. Late in a career full of injuries, Hill developed a reputation as a good defensive player.

#30- JAMES WORTHY (1982-1994) He would wave the ball above his head, palming it like a grapefruit. If Worthy didn’t get you with his first step, he would feel the defenders and quickly spin to the rim. “Big Game James” went 15 for 22 from the field in game seven of the 1988 NBA Finals.

Karl Malone and Charles Barkley both said McHale was their most difficult matchup.
Karl Malone and Charles Barkley both said McHale was their most difficult matchup.

#29- STEPHEN CURRY (Active) He’s only a puppy, and showing us things we have never witnessed before. His handles and shot are arguably the best we have seen. His ability to shoot off the dribble and the pass is seemingly effortless. This makes him the leading man in the long distance shooting era.

#28- JASON KIDD (1994-2013) Kidd was the unselfish play maker of the day. His ability to pass and hit the boards made him a triple double threat every night (his 107 is 3rd all time).

#27- PAUL PIERCE (Active) Pierce thrives in pressure moments. He is in the closer’s club. Paul is a Boston Celtics legend whose playoff career will be the roots of his legacy. Defensively Pierce created a hurdle for LeBron James. His nickname “The Truth”, was given to him by Shaquille O’ Neal.

#26- GARY PAYTON (1990-2007) When I think of “the glove”, I picture him in his defensive crouch. His palms out, his head rocking side to side, and chewing his gum like the cockiest man alive. Gary Payton was also awesome at basketball.

#25- KEVIN MCHALE (1980-1993) His odd framed body combined with all of his pet moves made McHale a back to the basket wizard. Charles Barkley said about Kevin, “He was almost an impossible cover. I would just stand there with my arms raised up as high as I could get them. Then you just hoped he missed.”

#24- KEVIN DURANT (Active) He has the unique physical tools, the strong mental makeup, and the drive that makes him a lock for greatness. KD will begin his prime years of play this winter. Durant has already been the league MVP. He has finished in second place in the voting three times.

#23- DOMINIQUE WILKINS (1982-1999)  Dominique Wilkins was left off the NBA’s 50th Anniversary Team in 1996. Wilkins became the popular name missing from the top 50 list. Magic, Bird, and Jordan quickly made the point Nique deserved the same honor that they did. His 1988 playoff performance with 47 points remains a record for a game seven.

#22- CHRIS WEBBER (1993-2008) In my opinion, Webber was the top player in the NBA for the first half of the 2000 NBA season. Chris had good patience under the rim. He had amazing hands and caught everything. At the time C Webb was the best front court passer since Larry Bird.

#21- SCOTTIE PIPPEN (1987-2004) Pippen is the most disrespected star of my lifetime. He is perceived as a player that was carried to his success. The reality is, Scottie won six Championships while ranging between the 3rd and 12th best player on earth. He was a lock down defender and as well-rounded as they come.

Karl Malone has made more free throws (9,787) more than any player in NBA history.
Karl Malone has made more free throws (9,787) than any player in NBA history.

#20- PATRICK EWING (1985-2002)  He was the prize of the 1985 draft and did not disappoint. Patrick had all of the rugged traits with an iconic turn around shot from the baseline. Ewing was named “Player of the Month” 5 times.

#19- ALLEN IVERSON (1996-2010) Iverson destroyed defenses with his relentless play and blinding quickness. He was constantly on the floor sacrificing his body. Allen led the league in average minutes seven times. A guy that scores 30 points in the opening half of his first NBA Finals game, is obviously not scared.

#18- STEVE NASH (1996-2014) Steve had excellent balance and footwork. He was a degree of difficulty shot maker, and did it shooting elite percentages. His style could seem chaotic but Steve was in complete control. Teams were built around his unique abilities.

#17- DIRK NOWITZKI (Active) I’ll never forget his 2011 Finals performance. It was among the greatest efforts where one man carried a group. You could see his experiences paying off in the fourth quarter. Dirk slowly out matured the Miami Heat when it mattered the most.

#16- CLYDE DREXLER (1983-1998) I can see Drexler dribbling full speed ahead with his head down. Clyde was traded to the Rockets in 1995. Some teammates resented him because they missed Otis Thorpe. After dropping 41 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists in a playoff game down two games to one to Utah, ended questions over the trade. Kenny Smith said, “we remembered quickly he was special.”

#15- ISIAH THOMAS (1981-1994) Isiah played the game like he knew he was being watched. He was a crowd pleaser and was a difficult player to upstage. His 1,123 assists remain an Eastern Conference record that will be hard to touch.

#14- KEVIN GARNETT (Active) KG was an animated character. At his best, he could guard every player on the court. Garnett was so wound up in his early years, he would not let the ball go in his teams hoop even after the whistle had blown.

#13- DWYANE WADE (Active) The self security Wade showed in how he handled James and Bosh in Miami was vital to the bond and the winning. His hesitation dribble sets up his beautiful drives into the paint. The 6-foot-4 Wade has 717 blocks in only 781 games.

#12- CHARLES BARKLEY (1984-2000) There was nobody quite like Charles. For his size, his rebounding numbers are epic. He shot 58 percent from the floor over his first six seasons. Being the standout player on the original “Dream Team” is his coolest accomplishment.

#11- JOHN STOCKTON (1984-2003) Stockton was so good at making decisions he made me think and guess the game as a viewer. John scored 19, 711 points shooting 51.5 percent on field goals. On the side, he was busy crushing opponents physically in the pick-setting part of the game. Only three players have produced a 1,000 assist season. John accomplished that feat seven different times.

#10- DAVID ROBINSON (1989-2003) “The Admiral” was chiseled, mobile, and cat quick. The last quadruple-double in the NBA was February 17th, 1994. Robinson had 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 blocks against the Pistons. After the height of his individual glory, he tutored Tim Duncan which paid off with two Championships.

#9- KARL MALONE (1985-2004) One of the most impressive sights in modern basketball was the 6-foot-9 inch, 260 pound “Mailman” running the outside lane on the fast break. Backing his guy down in the paint, Karl would seal the player on his hip and it was over. Nobody was stronger and he was not going to be outworked. Malone made the ALL-NBA First Team 11 times.

#8- HAKEEM OLAJUWON (1984-2002) At his apex (1993-97), Hakeem had the most impact on offense and defense in harmony than anyone else I’ve seen in the NBA. He mowed down beasts of the game to win his two titles. “Dream” remains the only player with over 200 blocks and 200 steals in the same season.

#7- LEBRON JAMES (Active) James is the finest combination of power and finesse the game has seen. He is as unselfish as an elite scorer can be. His defense is wildly versatile. LeBron’s on the level where being the best ever has to be his goal.

Michael would often trash talk opponents just to piss himself off.
Michael would often trash talk  opponents just to piss himself off.

#6- SHAQUILLE O’NEAL (1992-2011) Phil Jackson coaching Shaquille O’Neal in his prime created a monster. The motivated, refined version of Shaq was so dominant, it made us all think of Wilt. O’Neal was the most automatic bucket in the NBA. He led the league in field goal percentage 10 times.

#5- TIM DUNCAN (Active) Tim is arguably the best player during his time in pro basketball. Duncan is a five time NBA Champion whose teams have won 50 or more games in 16 straight years. He’s everyone’s favorite model of poise and consistency.

#4- LARRY BIRD (1979-1992) Bird had an intimidating swagger about himself. He seemed to be playing cat and mouse with his opponents. He made an art form out of crafty play. Larry was the leader of arguably the greatest team of all time, the 1986 Boston Celtics (40-1 at home).

#3- KOBE BRYANT (Active) I believe Bryant is the greatest, fundamentally sound offensive player in the history of the game. His footwork and tough shot making ability are incomparable. Kobe once out scored the Dallas Mavericks 62-61 through three quarters. Dallas had played three more minutes than him.

#2- MAGIC JOHNSON (1979-1996) Magic smiled while he humiliated people. He always seemed to have his four offensive teammates on a string. Johnson had an incredible feel for what his team needed. He played in 9 NBA Finals. If you needed a 50 foot shot to win the game, Magic would give you a solid chance. He has the most fitting nickname in sports.

#1- MICHAEL JORDAN (1984-2003) Jordan is the best team sports athlete I’ve ever seen. He often owned the game and seemed to take what he wanted on the floor. He was asked to live up to “Jordan standards” every night. It’s amazing how often he would match or exceed those expectations. Michael scored 40 or more points in a game 37 times…in 1987 alone.

 

Jay C. Brandriet 7/7/15

THE EASY TRUTH TO SEE IN LEBRON JAMES VERSUS MICHAEL JORDAN

LeBron James has just carried the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2015 NBA Finals. This will be his fifth straight trip to the championship round and his chance to win his third title in six chances. As James gains even more prominence in the NBA, the comparisons to Michael Jordan become increasingly regular. It’s a fun and easy temptation to compare NBA players and their levels of ability. Who is the better basketball player and by how much?

When players hit a certain level, we arguing over inches.
When players hit a certain level,
we argue over inches.

JORDAN IN CONTEXT: For those who did not see the majority of Jordan’s career, it’s important that I relay a message. Michael Jordan was not hype, cool shoes, and a marketable logo. He is not a product of people thinking things were always better yesterday. Jordan is the greatest performer in any team sport I have ever seen. His will and skill consumed everything about the game. MJ was so elite you could see his tangible efforts to motivate himself at times. He would often talk trash to an opponent to seemingly just piss himself off. He would hyper-focus and then take what he wanted. The Miami Heat retired Michael’s number out of respect for him punishing them on the floor so badly. Mike was that good.

 

JAMES IN CONTEXT: With zero rings in 2008, I believed LeBron James was already an NBA legend. No player has ever brought together the traits of power and finesse like LeBron. He is as unselfish as an all time scorer can be. His one scoring title was probably accidental on his part. LeBron is an icon of versatile play and leadership. Late in his prime I’m appreciating how special he is on the defensive end. “King James” has a bionic quality about him and a basketball IQ for the ages. James is on the level where his only professional goal, when he wakes up each morning, should be the journey to becoming the best player ever.

 

LET’S NOT COUNT THEIR RESUMES: We know how MJ has stepped on the throat of June and the NBA Finals. LeBron is a record-breaking, box score stuffing, winner himself. The biggest key is we have to respect that LeBron is far from done with his playing career. Let’s make their accomplishments the focus years from now. If we put the two players in a gym, in their primes, they would match up on a relatively even scale.

 

WHO IS BETTER? Michael was better. The detailed bits of difference are obvious to me. Jordan’s best hit a higher ceiling that LeBron’s has at this point. Michael’s game and its results were closer to perfect night to night. I’m keeping things in proper perspective. I’ts close my friends. LeBron’s game and body from outer space make it a discussion. In some ways “King” is getting better. People over-complicate it having to be so firm one way or the other. Jordan is the best I’ve ever seen, with that said LeBron deserves to be in the conversation. In 2015 James remains the top player in the world. He is likely to dominate for several more seasons.

 

KEY NOTES: I’ve watched players like Magic, Bird, Kobe, Duncan, Shaq, and the best version of Hakeem Olajuwon. I could be using their names in this article instead of James, but LeBron is the one in the Finals again. It’s still his time on the stage of greatness. He’s so awesome I must compare him to the best player I’ve seen.

 

Jay C. Brandriet

5/28/15